SHABAAN AL MU’AZZAM
THE FORERUNNER TO RAMADHAN
By: Mufti Waseem Khan (Hafizahullah)
The month of Shabaan is one of those blessed months in the Islamic calendar which heralds the great and virtuous month of Ramadhan. When it arrives, Muslims begin to prepare for the month of Ramadhan and wait anxiously to welcome it. In fact, the common talk among Muslims in Shabaan is about the arrival of Ramadhan.
Thus, Shabaan is indeed a forerunner to Ramadhan, as it heralds the coming of this great month. But besides this, Shabaan itself has its own merits and virtues which Allah has placed in it. It is for this reason, the Prophet (S.A) used to observe the fast frequently in the month of Shabaan. In this regard, Usamah Ibn Zaid (R.A) narrates, ‘I said: ‘Oh Messenger of Allah! I have not seen you fasting as much as you fast in Shabaan.’ He (S.A) replied: ‘this is a month that people are negligent about. It is the month that is between Rajab and Ramadhan. It is the month in which the deeds are raised to the Sustainer of the worlds. I therefore love that my deeds be raised while I am fasting.’ (Sunan An Nasaii).
In another tradition, it is mentioned that Anas (R.A) narrates that the Prophet (S.A) was asked ‘Which fast is the most superior after Ramadhan?’ He (S.A) replied ‘Shabaan, to show the greatness of Ramadhan.’ He was asked ‘Which charity is the most superior?’ He (S.A) replied ‘Charity in the month of Ramadhan.’ (Tirmidhi).
From these narrations, it can be seen that Shabaan is a month from which great blessings can be achieved, hence, Muslims must take advantage of this blessed month and increase in doing good actions.
In this blessed month, there is a special night that is known for its greatness and special significance. This night is known as the 15th night of Shabaan and is commonly refered to as ‘Lailatul Bara’at’ or ‘Shabe Bara’at’. This night is spoken about in several traditions which all together tell us about the special virtues of this night. Although some scholars have spoken about the weakness of some of these traditions, they are nevertheless acceptable by the majority of the great and accepted scholars of hadith.
In this regard, a tradition is narrated by Muaz bin Jabal (R.A) which states that the Messenger of Allah (S.A) said, ‘Allah looks to his creation on the 15th night of Shabaan and forgives everyone except two people: a polytheist and one who holds a grudge against people.’ (Ibn Majah)
Imam Ibn Hibban has narrated this hadith in his Sahih; Imam Baihaqi has narrated it in Shu’bal Imaan; Imam Tabarani in Al Mu’jam al Kabeer and Abu Nuaim in Al Hulya; Imam Haithami has also narrated it in Majmauz Zawaaid and after narrating it, has commented that all the narrators in the sanad of the above hadith are trusworthy and reliable, and this hadith is authentic. This hadith has also been narrated by Imam Mundhiri in At Targheeb and by Imam As Suyooti in Durrul Manthoor. Shaikh Albani has also narrated it in his Silsilah Sahiha (a book in which he has narrated authentic hadith according to him).
In another tradition narrated by Abu Thalaba (R.A), the Messenger of Allah (S.A) said, ‘On the 15th of Shabaan, Allah looks at his creation and forgives all the believers except one who begrudges and hates. He leaves them in their enmity.’
This hadith has been narrated by Imam Baihaqi in Shu’bal Imaan; Ibn Abi Asim has narrated it in Kitab As Sunnah; Imam Suyooti has narrated it in Durrul Manthoor. Shaikh Albani confirms its authenticity by narrating it in his Silsila Sahiha. (Muajamul Kabeer /Silsilah Sahiha, ما صح في ليلة النصف)
In another tradition, Abdullah bin Umar (R.A) has narrated that the Messenger of Allah (S.A) said, ‘Allah, on the 15th of Shabaan looks at the people and forgives all believers except for two kinds of people: Someone who holds a grudge for others and someone who has taken an innocent life.’
This hadith has been narrated by Imam Mundhiri in At Targheeb; Imam Ahmad has narrated it in his Musnad and Hafiz Al Haithami in Majma uz Zawaaid. Shaikh Albani has narrated this hadith in his Silsilah Sahiha, and after a lengthy discussion concerning its chain of narrators, he concludes that it is a good (hasan) hadith. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal / Silsilah Sahiha, ما صح في ليلة النصف)
Along with the above mentioned traditions, there are many different statements which have been made by the great scholars regarding the virtues of this night.
In this regard, Hafiz Ibn Taimiyah has mentioned, ‘as for the 15th night of Shabaan, there are many narrations and Athar (quotes from the sahabahs) regarding its virtues. It has been reported of the salaf (pious predecessors) that they prayed on this night. Therefore, praying alone on this night, having precedence in the salaf, is sufficient evidence and something of this kind cannot be denied. (Rasail Wa Fatawa Ibn Taimiya Fil Fiqh Vol. 23 Pg. 131).
At another place, he writes, ‘If one performs salaah on the 15th night of Shabaan, just as many groups of the salaf did, then it is good. (Rasaail wa Fatawa Ibn Taimiya Vol. 23 Pg. 131).
Shaikh Mansoor Bahooti Hanbali writes in his famous book of Fiqh, Kashful Qina Vol.1 Pg. 444, ‘As for the 15th night of Shabaan, it is a night of virtue. Some salaf (pious predecessors) performed salaah for the whole night. And the reward of the ibadah of the 15th night of Shabaan is the same as the reward of the ibadah of the night of Eid.’
Imam Shafi (R.A) has mentioned in his book, Al Umm Vol.1 Pg.231, “Of the narrations that have reached us, verily, dua is accepted on five nights; the night of Juma, the night of Eid Al Adha, the night of Eid Al Fitr, the first night of Rajab, and the 15th night of Shabaan.’
The great scholar and commentator of the book of Ahadith known as Jame Tirmizi, Shaikh Mubarakpuri writes, ‘You should know that a sufficient number of hadith have been narrated confirming the virtues of the 15th night of Shabaan. These ahaadith prove that it has a basis’. (Tuhfatul Ahwazi Vol.3 Pg.365).
At another place, after quoting many ahaadith about the importance of this night, he says, ‘The sum of all these ahaadith is strong evidence against the one who thinks there is no proof for the virtue of the 15th night of Shabaan. And Allah knows best.’
OBSERVING FAST ON THE 15th OF SHABAAN
In a tradition, Ali (R.A) narrates that the Prophet (S.A) said ‘When it is the 15th of Shabaan, spend the night in pray and the day in fasting, for surely Allah descends at the time of sunset to the lowest heaven and says ‘Is there anyone seeking forgiveness that I may forgive him? Is there anyone asking for sustenance that I may provide him with sustenance? Is there anyone in a calamity that I may give him comfort?’ This continues till the break of dawn.’ (Shu’bal Imaan, ما جاء في ليلة النصف من شعبان / Targeeb wa Tarheeb, الترغيب في صوم شعبان وما جاء في صيام النبى صلى الله عليه وسلم له وفضل ليلة نصفه / Ibn Majah, باب ما جاء في ليلة النصف من شعبان)
The above hadith shows that the Prophet (S.A) encouraged his followers to spend the night in salah; to observe the fast of the 15th of Shabaan and also to supplicate to Allah earnestly during the night, since He is all willing to fulfil the needs of his servants. While supplicating to Allah on this blessed night, the believers should beg Allah for His forgiveness; request Him to bless them with sustenance and also beg Him to remove calamities which have befallen them. In fact, Allah continues to call out to the believers promising to fulfil their needs and necessities. The believers should therefore take advantage of this special night and ensure that they receive the virtues of this night.
With respect to above hadith, some scholars have stated that the Sanad (chain of narrators) of this hadith is weak because one of its narrators Ibn Abi Saburah is a weak narrator against whom some scholars of hadith have written. However, many scholars of hadith have accepted this tradition and have not criticized it. While speaking about the narrator Ibn Abi Saburah, Adh Dahabi has stated ‘Ibn Abi Saburah is Abu Bakr Bin Abdullah Bin Abi Saburah from Madinah, and was the Qadhi and Faqeeh (Jurist) (Al Meezan Vol.4, Pg-504). Abu Dawood said about him ‘He was the Mufti of the people of Madinah.’ In As Siyar A’lam An Nubala, it is mentioned, ‘He (Ibn Abi Saburah) was a great jurist and the Qadhi of Iraq. It is narrated that Abu Ja’far Al Mansoor asked Imam Malik ‘Oh Malik who are the great Shyukh (Mashaikh) who have remained in Madinah?’ Imam Malik said ‘Ibn Abi Zaid, Ibn Abi Saburah and Ibn Abi Salmah Al Maajishoon.’ (As Siyar Vol.7, Pg.331, Al Resalah Publishers).
The great scholar and jurist expert Allama Sharambalali writes ‘there are five nights on which duas (supplications) are not rejected. These are: the night of Jumuah; the first night of Rajab; the night of the 15th of Shabaan and the night of the two Eids.’ The Shaikh then quoted the hadith and said, ‘The Prophet (S.A) said ‘When it is the 15th night of Shabaan, then stand at night in pray and fast the day. Verily Allah descends at the time of sunset to the lowest heaven and says ‘Is there anyone seeking forgiveness that I may forgive him? Is there anyone asking for sustenance that I may provide him with sustenance? Is there anyone in a calamity that I
may give him comfort?’ This continues till the break of dawn.’ (Maraqi Al Falah Pg-154).
Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al Haithami, after narrating several narrations regarding the 15th of Shabaan, and speaking of the statements of the scholars, writes ‘The summary of the discussion is that, there are virtues for this night. On it there is the special forgiveness from Allah and also a special acceptance of duas, and account of this, Imam Shafi (A.R) said ‘Certainly duas (supplications) are accepted on this night.’ (Fatawa of the Ibn Hajar Al Haithami Vol.1, Pg.80).
Based on these authentic narrations, it is well established that the 15th night of Shabaan is one which is virtuous and has a great significance.
VISITING THE GRAVEYARD ON THE 15th NIGHT OF SHABAAN.
It is evident that the Prophet (S.A) made dua for the deceased in Al Baqee when it was the night of the 15th of Shabaan. However, the jurist experts (Fuqaha) and scholars of hadith have stated that going to the grave yard is not from an established act which is to be done on the 15th night of Shabaan. It is also not from the specialities of the 15th night of Shabaan.
Instead, it is evident from authentic narrations that the Prophet (S.A) used to visit the graveyard in the last part of the night. In this regard, Aisha (R.A) said, ‘Whenever the Prophet (S.A) spent the night with me (on my turn), he used to visit the graveyard (Baqee) in the last part of the night, and would say (at the graveyard) ‘Peace be upon you, the home of the believers. Your death has come which you were promised. You are going towards Qiyamah tomorrow. We will also be meeting you. Oh Allah forgive the dwellers of Baqee Al Gharqad (graveyard in Madina) (Sahih Muslim, باب ما يقال عند دخول القبور و الدعاء)
In another narration of Sahih Muslim, Aisha (R.A) described another occasion when the Prophet (S.A) left her on the bed and went to the graveyard to make dua for the deceased. The Prophet (S.A) then informed her that Jibraeel (A.S) came to him and informed him that his lord has ordered him to go to Baqee (the graveyard) and make dua of forgivness for the dwellers of the grave. In this narration of Sahih Muslim, there was no mention of this being on the 15th night of Shabaan. In fact, as mentioned before by Aisha (R.A) whenever it was the night for the Prophet (S.A) to spend with her, he used to visit the graveyard in the last part of the night. (Sahih Muslim, باب ما يقال عند دخول القبور و الدعاء)
With respect to the narration which states that the Prophet (S.A) visited the graveyard of Baqee Al Gharqad on the 15th night of Shabaan and made dua for the deceased, the scholars of hadith have stated that the narration is weak and hence, does not establish a special practice of visiting the graveyard on the night of the 15th of Shabaan. (Tuhfa Al Ahwazi, Commentry of Jame Tirmidhi, Vol.3, Pgs.501-505, Qadimi Kutub Khana)
In his commentary of Jame Tirmidhi, the great scholar, Mufti Saeed Ahmad (D.B) has stated, ‘On this night, one can supplicate for himself and the deceased, and there is no need to go to the graveyard.’ He also writes, ‘The narration of going to the graveyard is weak. Besides this, the Prophet (S.A) did not encourage the people to go to the graveyard on the night of the 15th of Shabaan. (Tuhfa Al Alma’ee, Commentary of Tirmidhi, Pgs.114-116, Vol.3, Zam Zam Publisher, Karachi)
As stated before, the Prophet’s practice was to visit the graveyard whenever he spent his night with Aisha (R.A). Scholars have explained that the night of the 15th Shabaan came in when he was at Aisha’s place, and so, in accordance to his established practice, he visited the graveyard in Madina (Baqee Al Gharqad) and made dua for the deceased. This is clearly evident from the authentic narrations of Imam Muslim in his Sahih, and in these traditions, there is no mention of the 15th night of Shabaan.
Hence, seeing that the blessedness of the night is established as mentioned by many scholars, one should worship Allah and make dua for himself and the deceased members of his family and the Ummah. However, there is no established teaching from the ahadith that shows that one must go to the graveyard as a special practice of the 15th night of Shabaan.
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